Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: the Dutch

You join me this month in Holland where the people are high, the country is low, the men are gay, the women are naked and you're exhorted, as you walk down the streets of Amsterdam, to step inside every building for some sleaze and filth.

I'm making a TV series about the major European countries and the people who live in them. And to be honest, it's a piece of cake.

There's a good reason to dislike or distrust every single one of the tribes on this side of the water. The Spanish nick our fish but have no clue how to cook it. The French know how to cook it but can't be arsed to serve us. Then you have the Italians who have no sense of humour, the Germans who can't play football and the Belgians who can't play football either, mainly because they think they're fish.

It's easy to be smug too because there is almost no country in Europe that we haven't creamed at some point. Except Belgium, of course, which was invented by the British as somewhere to play our military away fixtures.

This argument, however, doesn't hold water with the Dutch. They once had the barefaced cheek to sail right up the Thames and sink our entire fleet. They even killed Lord Sandwich. However, in the ensuing peace treaty they made the mistake of swapping Suriname - a two-bit hell-hole in South America - for a place called New Amsterdam. We then changed its name to New York.

The thing is, though, that rather than fret about it, Johnny Dutch simply points out that Britain got no footballers at all from America whereas their entire national team is Surinamese, or whatever it is you are when you're from there. So, in their eyes, they kind of won both the war, and the peace as well.

I like the Dutch. I like their tolerance. I like their relaxed attitude to sex and drugs. Only last night, a chap I met told me he was a little late because he'd been downloading some porno movies from the Internet. He said it like he had been shopping.

"I like the Dutch. I like their tolerance. I like their relaxed attitude to sex and drugs"

And then there was a girl in a bar. An aid worker. Respectable. Late thirties. A bit plain. And within five minutes she was extolling the virtues of the cock ring. I was flabbergasted.

Obviously, I want to dislike them and have cast about frantically for a reason. They are a little tight perhaps, and will wreck a perfectly good car by adding a raised roof to make it technically a van. This cuts the tax bill in half.

They also have quite an absurd penchant for caravanning. Think about it. Think of all the amazing places you've been to. The remote craggy outpost of Western Spain. The high Alpine passes or Switzerland. The very top of Scotland. What's always there to spoil the view? Yes! A Dutch family in chunky jumpers and a camper van.

Then you have Dutch traffic lights which are green for half a second, orange for half a second and red for three weeks. And there's an absolutely idiotic law here which says you must always give way to people on bicycles.

But I can forgive them this. I can forgive them anything for what they are doing about the only thing they have ever given to the world. The Gatso speed camera.

Holland is infested with the damn things. On the motorway from Amsterdam to Eindhoven yesterday, I counted eight in the space of one mile. Eight! And they're painted an even more invisible shade of grey than ours.

However, even though the Dutch don't get penalty points for speeding, and the fine is usually £20, they have reacted to this explosion of Nanny Statism with a fury that has left the whole country gasping.

Basically, someone is going around at night, blowing them up. He gives the police fair warning, painting the camera pink. And then, a few nights later, using heavy fireworks imported from Belgium, BANG, the whole £25,000 shooting match is blown sky high.

As you cruise around, you will see evidence of his handiwork everywhere. Grey stumps with frazzled wires poking out of the top. Shattered radar equipment in the tree tops.

And now there are copycat crimes. Tyres full of petrol are slung around the box on top. Four-wheel drives are bending the mounting poles so that they only photograph passing ospreys. No, really. If you don't believe me, there are photographs for your viewing pleasure at www.tuftufclub.com.

I don't doubt that many of you will check out this site, and you will maybe e-mail the pictures to your friends who, just like you, will laugh and say "Hey wouldn't it be great if someone else did that here in Britain".

I'm not suggesting anyone should, of course. I mean, it would be wholly irresponsible to attack a speed camera. Or relocate those which are positioned behind bushes on open stretches of road to somewhere more appropriate, like outside a children's play area or a school, for example.

Were you to do any of this you would be interfering with the chief constable's business and you may well end up in court. Unless of course you did it at night, dressed in combat fatigues with lookouts posted.

So sadly, it seems like the speed camera is here to stay in Britain whereas in Holland, it really does look like the war on fast driving may well be lost.

That's the best thing about the Dutch. They do not elect people to govern them. They elect a leader who does as he's told. And what they're telling him over here at the moment is simple: ‘Get off our backs'.

 

Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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